Detroit — This might be Chris Osgood’s year for the Hockey Hall of Fame.
But an old adversary, and one of the rules of thumb in the NHL, could block the Red Wings’ three-time Stanley Cup winner.
Colleen Howe might get a nod, for developing hockey in Michigan and managing her husband and sons’ careers.
She would be the first woman inducted in the Builder Category, and it is the first year of voting by the selection committee since the death of Gordie Howe.
If anyone deserves that distinction more than Marian Ilitch, it might well be Howe.
In Osgood’s fourth year of eligibility, a comparatively slender field of candidates vies for the three annual inductions.
Teemu Selanne is a shoo-in, in his first year of eligibility.
Mark Recchi is arguably overdue in his fourth.
Their personal performances and Stanley Cups suggest they are more likely 2017 inductees than the Wings’ goaltender.
Selanne scored 684 goals and 1,457 points, the 15th most in NHL history, and finished 24th all-time in games played (1,451).
Add to that, the former Jets, Ducks, Sharks and Avalanche player is the winner of the 2007 Stanley Cup, the 1993 Calder Trophy — for an astonishing rookie season in which he had 11 goals after 12 games, and went on to score 76 and 132 points — the inaugural winner of the Rocket Richard Trophy in 1999 for his 47 goals, and the 2006 Masterton Trophy for dedication and perseverance for a brilliant comeback season (40 goals, 90 points).
Early in his career, “The Finnish Flash” was magnificently fast and smart.
Later, it was guile and skill.
“He gets to a lot of places where he can score, and it’s tough to defend,” said Nicklas Lidstrom, the Red Wings’ Hockey Hall of Fame defenseman, back in 2007.
Recchi won the Stanley Cup three times. His 1,533 points rank him 12th all-time, 956 assists 13th, 577 goals 20th, 1,652 games played fourth.
After playing for the Penguins (four stints), Flyers (two stints), Canadiens, Hurricanes, Thrashers, Lightning and Bruins, Recchi is the only retired player who scored 500 goals and 1,500 points who is not in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Of the rest of the field, Osgood could be next.
He won three Stanley Cups for the Red Wings, two as a starter and one in which he arguably played the most critical role. In 2008, the year of the Wings’ last Stanley Cup, he relieved Dominik Hasek in Game 4 of the opening round and went on a nine-game winning streak.
Eventually, with a 1.55 goals-against average, Osgood finished 14-4.
The next season, he back-stopped the Wings to within one win of their 12th Stanley Cup.
In the consecutive seasons combined, he allowed an average of 1.80 goals aper game and had a .928 save percentage in the playoffs.
While comparing goals-against averages across eras is problematic, his 2.49 career mark is better than Ed Belfour, Glenn Hall, Bernie Parent and Terry Sawchuk, all of whom are in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Osgood’s .905 career save percentage reflects some of the inconsistency in his 17-year career, but easily exceeds Grant Fuhr’s .887 who played for another powerhouse club, the Oilers of the 1980s.
He is eighth all time in career playoff wins (74) and fourth in career playoff shutouts (15).
Last year, 34 years after he retired, Rogatien Vachon, briefly a Red Wings goalie at the end of his career, received induction. Vachon is 19th in playoff wins, had 51 career shutouts compared to Osgood’s 50 and a career goals against average, albeit in a different era, of 2.99.
There are sometimes surprises and almost always debate with the annual inductions.
Osgood’s chances seem good compared to some of the other possibilities, including Daniel Alfredsson, who led the Red Wings in points during the last season of his career; Paul Kariya, who assisted on many of Selanne’s goals; Theo Fleury, Alexander Mogilny and Jeremy Roenick.
Also in the mix, some of goalie Curtis Joseph’s personal stats are better than Osgood’s, but Joseph never won a Stanley Cup.
There is a player among the contenders who is long overdue for induction, and could cost Osgood induction this year.
An unwritten NHL rule is: 600 career goals is sufficient criterion for induction in Toronto.
Dave Andreychuk is the only 600-goal scorer not in the Hockey Hall of Fame, and he has been awaiting induction for nine years.
It is almost certain eventually.
Andreychuk had 640 goals and won the 2004 Stanley Cup as captain of the Lightning.
The case for Howe, or anyone in the Builder Category, is not made comparing statistics. The credentials are the accomplishments of a lifetime that contribute to the sport.
The criteria set out by the Hockey Hall of Fame are: “Coaching, managerial or executive ability, or ability in another significant off-ice role, sportsmanship, character and contributions to his or her organization or organizations and to the game of hockey in general.”
There has not been a “her,” yet.
In the mid-1960s, at a time when United States-born NHL players literally could be counted with the fingers of a single hand, she organized the construction of an ice arena on the east side of a city that had no other enclosed ice surface open to the public.
She also essentially insisted Red Wings management establish the first Junior A team outside of Canada, the Junior A Red Wings
As an agent, although few called her that at the time, she negotiated contracts with the Red Wings and her husband’s endorsements. Later, she engineered the blockbuster World Hockey Association contracts for Gordie, Mark and Marty with the Houston Aeros.
It secured the opportunity for Gordie Howe to play regular seasons with his sons, beginning at age 45, before even he finally got too old to do it, and at a time when Marty and Mark were both too young to play in the NHL.
When the Aeros drafted both sons, it appeared than none of the other general managers in the league had realized they were eligible.
Unlike the NHL which then barred players under the age of 20, the embryonic WHA had not adopted a minimum age requirement.
When Howe discovered that, she went to the Aeros, said she could deliver all three players and counseled against any public discussion of the lack of an age restriction until the draft.
She described the situation in the book she co-authored with her husband, “and… Howe!”
“I learned a long time ago in my career that to get hockey people to do something you’ve thought of, it is best to merely plant a seed of information with them so they believe they thought of it themselves. Then let the take the credit,” she said.
“I just wish I could have been there for the WHA draft in Winnipeg, It must have been exciting. Like an atom bomb going off.”
As he left the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament a year ago, emotionally discussing Gordie Howe at his funeral NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said the league would establish “an enduring testament to Gordie… something that appropriately celebrates his life and creates a lasting tribute to his immortality.”
The NHL and the Hockey Hall of Fame operate independently. But there could be no greater tribute to Gordie than the enshrinement of Colleen.
Hockey Hall of Fame
What: Hockey Hall of Fame 2017 inductee announcement
When: 3 p.m. Monday
TV: Streamed live on TSN.ca.
Notable: First-time candidates are goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere, and forwards Daniel Alfredsson, Todd Bertuzzi and Teemu Selanne.